Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Monday, March 26, 2012

Simon and the Easter Miracle by Mary Joslin

When I get the opportunity to review a children's book, I often display it on a side table in our dining room, especially when the book is a lovely hardcover one such as Simon and the Easter Miracle.

I was pleased to receive this story; being a follower of Jesus, Easter is my favorite holiday, and I'm always looking for good books that reflect my faith to share with my daughters. I was immediately attracted by the lovely illustrations on the cover, courtesy of  Anna Luraschi.

One positive aspect of displaying books on the table as we do, is that it catches the eyes of my girls, and is within easy reach when they want to take a look. Such was the case with this tale. I mentioned to my 8 year old that I wanted to sit down with her and read this book together and hear her thoughts. She replied, "Oh, the Easter one? Yeah, I read that a few times. I like it." Fun. :)

What I enjoyed about the book:

I love the illustrations. How to describe them, hmmm...peaceful, pleasant, not whimsical exactly, but well, simply lovely.

I thought it interesting to consider the Easter story from Simon's viewpoint. Here he is, wrapped up in his own world, earning a living, and God just kind of drops in on him. ( God does that with us sometimes , doesn't He? )
All of a sudden, Simon is a part of the biggest event in the history of man. How did that affect him? It just opens up some good discussion.

What I didn't like so much:

I found Simon's initial encounter with Jesus disappointing. The Easter story was diluted, with the reason given for Jesus dying was that He brought a message of peace. At the end, there is the suggestion of a miracle with the empty eggs that Simon finds, but no mention of the Resurrection itself, which is what Easter is all about!

So, I'm actually still pondering the book and how I feel about it. At the very least, it makes for some interesting conversations with my girls.

Simon and the Easter Miracle written by Mary Joslin, illustrated by Anna Luraschi

Price: $14.99

* I received a free copy of Simon and the Easter Miracle in exchange for my honest opinion, with no additional compensation.

A Perfect Pet for Peyton by Rick Osbourne and Gary Chapman

Books are a hot commodity around our home. If you want to send the girls into a series of happy whoops and cries of delight, simply tell them a trip to the library and/or the bookstore is imminent. They love receiving a new book.

It was therefore no surprise to me when, immediately upon finding this book in our mailbox, my youngest took one look at it, said "OOH!", and disappeared with it. I love that!

Back to the subject :) I/We really enjoyed reviewing A Perfect Pet for Peyton this week. You've very likely heard of The 5 Love Languages series of books, and this book presents the concept in a delightful, kid pleasing manner.

The story opens with twins Peyton and Penny ready to celebrate their birthday. And what they want more than anything is the perfect pet pal. So where do they go but to The Perfect Pet Pal Emporium where Mr. Chapman will match them with the perfect companion.

As the twins make their way through the pet place with their friends, each one finds their special pet. But that isn't all, because at the same time, each child discovers what his/her love language is. And adding to the fun of this book, the authors have included little hidden object searches. I love those!

Peyton watches all of his friends enjoy their new buddies, and when he's the only one without a pet, he begins to think there might not be a match for him- Sniff -. Does he find that perfect pet? You'll have to read the book silly ;) And really, please do, it's great!

At the end of the book is a little quiz so kids can find out what their own love language is. 

And yes folks, it's that time again...GIVEAWAY!

One blessed reader will receive a FREE copy of A Perfect Pet for Peyton!
All you need to do is...

Follow me here and comment below,

Tell me about your perfect pet and comment below,

Tell me what your love language is and comment below.

That's up to 3 entries per person. As always, please leave me your email addy so I can contact you.

Enter now :)

Giveaway begins today, Monday, March 26, and goes through Tuesday, April 3 2012. I'll notify the winner on Wednesday, April 4 2012.

About the book:

This wonderfully imaginative children’s hardcover book by bestselling authors Gary Chapman and Rick Osborne, featuring four-color illustrations (with hidden details!) by Wilson Williams, Jr., will help children learn the importance of love. Based on Gary’s highly successful The 5 Love Languages®, A Perfect Pet for Peyton tells an entertaining and playful story of five children who each, with the help of Mr. Chapman and the unique pets at his special emporium, discover their own personal love language. Children and parents alike will experience firsthand the power of the love languages as they cuddle up and spend precious time together reading this book over and over again.

*Free interactive app with in-book experience COMING SOON to the Apple App Store.

A Perfect Pet for Peyton:

The 5 Love Languages:

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Action Alert

Well, you can't avoid it these days. The Internet that is. It's everywhere you know. I always preferred a physical book, resource, etc., to an online program. I never pictured myself surfing the web, blogging, or half of what I actually find myself using on the technology front these days.

Yet here I am, daily utilizing the wonderful world of the web, and there are some great programs and such to be found. we all know, there are some pretty awful things as well. And that really comes to the forefront of your mind when you have children that use the computer.
How do you protect their innocence?

I have one possibility for your family. Action Alert. I was given a free download of the Maximum  version of their program to review on our computer.

A winner of Disney's iparenting award and featured on NBC's The Today Show, Action Alert seeks to keep your child safe while online by blocking potentially harmful sites, and alerting you with texts and emails of computer activity. You can even shut down computer access if you suspect a problem from your phone. Cool!

It records up to 60 hours of all computer activity (including offline stuff), and allows you to view it.
And don't worry about your child outsmarting it, because the program uses encrypted codes like those used by government agencies. In fact, it will even notify you of any attempts to do so.

Here's a little visual of what Action Alert features.

You can choose from two options:

1.) The Free version, which allows you the basic protection, and well, it's free! A great way to check it out and see what you think.

2.) The Maximum version, which also provides multiple user protection, customizable features, and social monitoring.

I'm ready to do my part to keep my children safe on the Internet. Now as for my family, we're still at an early enough stage in their lives where they don't have unsupervised computer time. They still have a sweet innocence as far as that goes, and I hope to preserve that for as long as possible. So, we haven't needed too much in the form of reports and alerts.

But, I feel better having put something in place now so when the time comes, we're hopefully a bit more prepared.

You just can't be too careful when it comes to the computer, and Action Alert offers a nice resource to assist you in keeping your kids safe. With a free version available, it's worth checking out. Visit their website today.

Action Alert
Price: Free for basic version
                   Maximum version- $29.99

Click on TOS Homeschool Crew to read more reviews of this product.

* I received a free download of the Maximum version from Action Alert in exchange for my review of the resource.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Woodcarver

About the Movie:
Matthew Stevenson is a troubled kid from a broken home. When he vandalizes the local church to get back at his parents, Matthew has to repair the damage to the church to avoid criminal charges. While working at the church, he meets Ernest (John Ratzenberger), an accomplished wood carver who created the intricate woodwork decoration that Matthew destroyed. Ernest has become something of a hermit, but reluctantly comes out of reclusion to help repair the church. Now Ernest and Matthew must work together to preserve the church's beautiful antiquity, and along the way, they also manage to restore their faith in God and in life.

I have another family friendly movie to add to the roster for family movie night. The Woodcarver stars John Ratzenberger (whom I really like in these family movie roles) as Ernest, an exceptionally talented woodcarver who, after the untimely death of his beloved wife, becomes somewhat of a recluse.

Matthew is a troubled teen who, disappointed and angry with his parents' decision to divorce, vandalizes a local church.
I have to say, Matthew's parents did a fabulous job playing the parts of the bitter spouses, his father in particular. I really disliked his character from the start ;) ( I later changed my mind )

As part of his restitution, Matthew must assist in the rebuilding of the church. Thus begins a slow but steady journey of healing for all of the characters involved, including Earnest (John Ratzenberger).

You know, I expected to like this movie given the cast, but I didn't expect to like it as much as I actually did!  I love the understated aspect of John Ratzenberger's character; he displays an incredible amount of restraint (especially with Matthew's father) and wisdom.
I think a statement toward the end of the movie sums it all up well..."Never underestimate the power of prayer."

You'll be wanting to see this one :) So, please do!

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or
services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it
on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally
and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance
with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Time for another giveaway :) Here's your chance to receive a free copy of The Woodcarver DVD for your personal library.
How to enter:
Follow me here, and then leave me a comment.
Or...share this giveaway on facebook and leave me a comment.
As aways, please leave me your email addy so I have a way to contact you. The giveaway begins today, March 13, and will go through Friday, March 23 2012. I will announce the winner on Monday, March, 26 2012.

Update: Congratulations JH Interior!! You won the Giveaway!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beauty For Ashes by Dorothy Love

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...that he might be glorified."  ~ Isaiah 61:3

Oh, such a beautiful promise from God's word, and the perfect verse to serve as the theme for Dorothy Love's latest book, Beauty For Ashes, the second book in her Hickory Ridge Romance series. To begin with, here are a few words from the publisher:

About the book:

She’s a beautiful young widow. He’s a Southern gentleman with a thirst for adventure. Both need a place to call home.

After losing her husband in the Civil War, Carrie Daly is scared she will never have the family she longs for. Eligible bachelors are scarce in Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, but Carrie has found love. Not the weak-in-the-knees kind, but something practical. Still, she isn't quite ready to set a wedding date with Nate Chastain.

Griff Rutledge is a former member of Charleston society, but has been estranged from his family for years. He’s determined to remain unattached, never settling in one place for too long. But when asked to train a Thoroughbred for an upcoming race in Hickory Ridge, he decides to stay awhile.

Despite objections from the townsfolk, and her fear that true happiness has eluded her, Carrie is drawn to Griff's kindness and charm. It will take a leap of faith for them to open their hearts and claim God's promise to give beauty for ashes.

About Dorothy:
Before returning to her writing roots in historical fiction, Dorothy Love published twelve novels for young adults. Her work has garnered numerous honors from the American Library Association, the Friends of American Writers, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and many others. The Hickory Ridge Novels mark her Christian fiction debut.
For more about Dorothy visit her website, or friend her

When I was considering how I would describe this book, the first thing that I was going to say was that, well, it made me mad! Now just hold on a second, this is not a negative review. Let me explain what I mean.

From the first few pages, Dorothy Love managed to evoke such strong emotions in me through her characters. Carrie Daly is no stranger to tragedy, and while she seeks God's will in her life, she wonders if her chance at happiness and romance have passed her by.
She does have a love interest in Nate Chastain, if  he can be called that; she senses in her spirit that she's settling, and her encounter with the exciting newcomer Griff Rutledge confirms her doubts.

Tragedy seems to be the theme for so much of the story. First comes the marriage between Carrie's brother and his selfish fiance, whom Carrie essentially becomes the servant to, and then a not so proper woman arrives in town and stakes out Nate for herself.

Through it all she handles herself with grace and quiet strength, holding her tongue when I so desperately wanted her to put those people in their place for crying out loud! ;) Thus, my reasons for getting mad.

I'm pleased to report that this story does turn out well, but, dear reader, you will have to read it for yourself to find out how.

There is only one aspect of the book that wasn't my favorite. For most of the book, the author took more time to lay out the story, provide background etc.. As the story began to wrap up in the last few chapters however, the ending seemed in a rush to tie up all of the loose ends. It all came together a bit too neatly for me. Don't get me wrong, I love a happy ending, but some of the characters ( I'm thinking specifically of Carrie's sister in law Mary) had such an immediate change of heart, and I would have liked to have seen the actual transformation played out a little more.

But all in all, it was a great book. I always appreciate seeing the spiritual lives of the characters developed, and Love did a lovely job weaving the promises of God throughout. I recommend this series for sure.

Interested in purchasing this book? Here's the link:

* I received a copy of Beauty For Ashes by Dorothy Love in exchange for my honest opinion, with no additional compensation.

Dorothy Love's Beauty for Ashes Kindle Fire and a Sapphire Ring Giveaway! Enter Today & RSVP for 3/20 Facebook Author Chat Party!

We're thrilled to announce the fun giveaway Dorothy is hosting! First, she'll be giving away a Kindle Fire (3/1-3/20), then on the evening of the 20th she's inviting everyone to her Facebook Author Page for a fun Author Chat party! Don't miss a minute of the fun ... sigh.

One beautiful winner will receive:

  • A Brand new Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Beauty for Ashes by Dorothy Love
  • Beyond All Measure by Dorothy Love
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/20/12. Winner will be announced at Dorothy's Facebook Author Chat Party on 3/20. Come for an evening of chat, trivia, and a sneak peek at the next book in Dorothy's Hickory Ridge series - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books and a stunning sapphire ring!
So grab your copy of Beauty for Ashes  and join Dorothy and friends on the evening of March 20th for an evening of fun.

Don't miss Dorothy's delightful giveaway and party. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 20th!

More Beauty Less Beast by Debora M. Coty

More Beauty Less Beast. The title alone is what first caught my eye. As did the subtitle- Transforming Your Inner Ogre. I'll be honest with you, there are enough occasions when it is the beast, not the beauty that rears its ugly head. Sooo...I thought that perhaps this book just might speak to me.

And so I dove right in. What I found was an easy read that spoke biblical truth in a most down to earth fashion. Author Debora M. Coty is self deprecating in her delivery, and to me, it felt like I was hangin' out with a close girlfriend. I'll fill you in on the rest of my thoughts after a few words from the publisher...

About the book:

With her own offbeat brand of wit and near-wisdom, inspirational humorist Debora Coty addresses heart needs of women struggling to tame that out-of-control inner beast that unexpectedly pounces, roaring and shredding, as it threatens to destroy the divinely beautiful princess hidden within. In More Beauty, Less Beast, women will find simple, practical techniques for embracing the true beauty rightfully theirs as cherished daughters of the King. Whether jaded by emotional wounds, unrealistic standards, or lack of confidence, this laugh-out-loud, girlfriend-to-girlfriend encouragement will help women transform their destructive inner beast into the exquisite beauty they were always meant to be.

                                                                  About the author:



Debora Coty is an occupational therapist, a piano teacher, and a freelance writer. She's also involved in the children's ministry at her church and is an avid tennis player. Debora began writing to fill the void when her last child left for college, and it has since become a passion. Debora has a real knack for getting across sound biblical concepts with a refreshing lightheartedness as attested in her monthly newspaper column entitled "Grace Notes: God's Grace for Everyday Living."

Alrighty, my turn again. If you're looking for C.S. Lewis or the like, you'll not find it here ;)  However, if what you're looking for is a lighthearted read that honestly gets to the heart of the issues, namely, God's standard of beauty, you'll want to take a peek (and more :)).

What issues exactly, I hear you asking? Outer Beauty, including our appearance, body image, fashion, and why we fuss over those things the way we do.
Then there's Inner Beauty, and this part of the book helps the reader learn a biblical perspective on these matters.

The last part of the book features the Fruits of the Spirit admittedly, in an unconventional sort of way, and then a sundry of ideas for taking beauty into the world.

A light fresh and uplifting read. Pick it up and enjoy! :)

Visit for more about Debora and her books.

Link to buy the book:

*I received a free copy of More Beauty Less Beast in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Transform Your Inner Ogre with a $150 Visa Cash Card from @DeboraCoty!

Using Biblical advice and her trademark humor, Debora Coty urges women to conquer guilt and re-institute hope in More Beauty, Less Beast. Celebrate with Debora by entering to win a $150 Visa Cash Card!

One "beautiful" winner will receive:

  • A $150 Visa Cash Card (Treat yourself to a spa day or weekend get-away!)
  • A Debora Coty Library (More Beauty, Less Beast, Too Blessed Too Be Stressed and Everyday Hope)
  • Chocolate (Every good things begins with chocolate!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/22/12. Winner will be announced at Debora's "Divine Beauty" Facebook Party on  3/22. Debora will be hosting an evening of chat, fun beauty trivia, laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Debora via Skype.)

So grab your copy of More Beauty, Less Beast and join Debora and friends on the evening of March 22nd for an evening of fun.

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 22nd!

Friday, March 2, 2012

K5 Learning

Okay, so we're well into the school year now, and this seems like a good point to assess your child's progress in Math, Reading and Spelling.'s it goin'? Are you pleased with your program? Would your little (or maybe not so little anymore) student agree?
It could be that while generally, the curriculum is doing its job, a little extra practice might be in order.
If the latter is where you're at, I have just the program to introduce you to!

K5 Learning is an online program created for kids that are, as you may have already guessed from the title, in Kindergarten up to 5th grade. Let me be clear from the start now, this is not designed to be a full blown curriculum, but an after-school enrichment program. But don't let that title fool you, this is not a site made up of games and entertainment. These are real lessons, created to improve vocabulary, speed, and comprehension.

The program begins with an assessment of each child's skills, so as to appropriately place them. So for each of my children, after logging on, the online narrator briefly explained how to maneuver around the screen, and told them how the assessment would work. They were then given a series of questions to answer and then placed at a particular level that corresponded with their speed and accuracy. This happened for both Math and Reading/Spelling.

I specifically liked the Math assessment (and so did my 7 yr. old), and the way it tracks the speed as well as accuracy. If my daughter produced the correct answer within the set time limit (I believe it was a few seconds), they received a check mark and a star- complete with a fun sound effect paired with it. If however, they gave the correct answer but didn't answer within the time period, they only received the star. Then when the assessment was complete, the program displays the results on the screen.
I found that helpful for both of my daughters, because they are basically on track for their grades, but definitely need improvement in their speed.

The lessons have been just the right length for my kids, providing  the right level of challenge without causing frustration.  A little quiz follows the lesson, making it easy to test comprehension.When a section is over, the program makes it easy for them to continue or quit, with a cartoon image of a police officer next to a stop light. If they want to continue, they only need click on green, and if they're done, they click guessed it, the red.
A big draw to the Math part of the program for the girls is also the avatar. Goodness, they love to customize those characters! Also fun is the game time that follows a math lesson, offering a choice of several possible games to play. And speaking of games, K5 times the play, and when that time is up, it's up. I thought that was a good way to limit it.

The hard work has essentially been taken care of for you, the parent. It's rather simple for a child to navigate through the subjects, tests and assessments are provided, all while tailoring the lessons to each student's ability.
Should you feel the need to adjust the lessons to make them more or less difficult, that too can be arranged ;)
We have found it to be a nice enrichment to reinforce our current program, and it has really improved my older daughters speed ( in Math) particularly.

K5 offers a free 14 day trial period to try it out for yourself, no obligation, no credit card required. Nice :) You'll find subscriptions available by the month or annually. Why not visit their website today and see if your child might benefit from a little enrichment?

*Want to read more reviews of K5? Click on TOS Homeschool Crew  now!

K5 Learning

Age: K-5th Grade

Price: Monthly subscription- First child $25.00 Additional children $15.00
           Annual Subscription- First child $199.00 Additional children $129.00

*I received free access to K5 Learning in exchange for my use and honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Eggs

Okay, let's talk about reading. Do you have any emerging readers? Struggling readers? Maybe you're looking for a program to improve your student's comprehension and/or fluency? Stay tuned then, because this just may be the online program to meet those needs.

May I present...da da da daaaa!!! Reading Eggs. There are actually two branches to this program. Reading Eggs is for children in the earliest stages of reading or just beginning to read (approximately 4 yrs. to 6 yrs.). Then there is Reading Eggspress, for the child who is already reading, but could use some practice in vocabulary, spelling, comprehension and fluency (and who couldn't benefit from more practice? :) )
I'll begin with an overview of Reading Eggs.

Any child can begin here, as there are no prerequisites necessary to begin. They will first take a short placement test to see what level best suits their skill level. This is made up of 40 questions, asked alternately by a male and female voice. One thing to mention as far as that goes...The female voice sounds as if she has a cold, and as a result, some of the questions were a little hard to understand.
For example, she asked to identify the word family ending with "en", but she sounded like she said "ed", and my oldest got the question wrong. We were able to understand the other questions pretty well though.

The lessons are actually set up like maps, so the kids can visually track their progress onscreen with a little avatar that they customize. The avatars are cute too; the bodies are little eggs that your child chooses the color and design on.

Lessons include a fun mix of songs, games, and cute animation. There are plenty of opportunities to earn "eggs", which may later be spent at the online "shop". The only issue I had- and this never bothered my daughters- was the length of time it takes for the lessons to load, and we have high speed internet.

Another neat feature is the printable activity sheets that are available for each lesson. They're beautiful, very colorful and inviting, and most importantly, they reinforce the material covered.

The girlies really liked the Reading Eggs portion...a lot. I have had to make them limit their time spent on the program, so that says a lot.

We've also enjoyed the Reading Eggspress section quite a bit. So let's talk about that a little.
I mentioned that this part is for the child that is already reading ( age range around 7-13 yrs. old), but can still benefit from lessons in comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, etc..
This section has been *my* favorite. The home page is a spinning, floating island where the child can choose which section to complete a lesson from; the stadium, gym, library, mall. There are games that may be played against another person, or the computer itself. Tests are included at the end of games to ensure comprehension.

And the books...oh the selection of books. We all like that! In the library section, just click on a particular section - fantasy, animals, science, ocean, etc...-, and select the age range of the student. A bookshelf then fills with appropriate books available to read; really fun!

Progress is always available right on the log in page, so you can keep track of skills learned, and the current lesson itself.

Final thoughts:

There were a couple of small frustrations within the program that I mentioned - the nasally voice of the female narrator, the loading speed, but the positives far outweighed the negatives for my girls. It's been a great source of fun and practice for their reading, and I give it our full recommendation.
Visit their website and get a free trial for your child, and see what you think!

You can also read what my crewmates had to say about this program by visiting TOS Homeschool Crew

Reading Eggs
Ages: 4-13yrs.old
Price: Monthly subscription - $9.95
           6 months subscription - $49.95
           Yearly subscription -$75.00

* I received free access to the Reading Eggs program in exchange for my honest use and review of the program, with no additional compensation.